Reading) Writing, and
Learning in ESL
A Resource Book for Teaching
K-12 English Learners
Suzanne F. Peregoy
San Francisco State University
Owen F. Boyle
San jose State University
with contributions by
San Diego State University
Boston Columbus Indianapolis New York San Francisco Upper Saddle River
Amsterdam Cape Town Dubai London Madrid Milan Munich Paris Montreal Toronto
Delhi Mexico City Sao Paulo Sydney Hong Kong Seoul Singapore Taipei Tokyo
English Learners Beginning
to Write and Read
.. I won't know what my story is about until I finish my picture! ~
-OSVALDO, age 5
.. My spelling is Wpbbly. It's good spelling but it Wobbles,
and the letters get in the wrong places. ~
-WINNIE THE POOH (MILNE, 1926)
ntr:.ctinn Early Literacy &
of English Learners ng Readiness Perspectives
Evaluating Student Reading &
Writing vs. Testing Motor Skills
& Auditory Discrimination
Differences between Oral &
the Visual Form
e & School
• Literacy-Rich Environment
Development of Alphabetic
Symbols & Sounds
• Books, Books, Books
• Regular Routines
• Reading Aloud to Students
How Do Home
Print Concepts that Emerge
Invented or Temporary
• Language Experience
• Dialogue Journals
• Alphabet Books
Family Literacy Programs
discussEnglishlearners' early literacy development, home-school relationships,
~+~ ... +~;~;,,~tO involve your students in reading and writing, and assessment procedures
progressinthe early stages of reading and writing development. The following
guide yO.ur reading for the chapter:
Wtia.t,~.oes researth tell us about the early literacy development of English learners?
\Jvhat are the "eme~gent literacy" and "reading readiness" perspectives, and how do they
il)fluence early literacy _instruction? ·
How Sal"lteachers and parents work together to enhance home-school relationships and
prom,()"l:e early literacy development?
Hqwce~n you organize your classroom to maximize early literacy development for all students?
Whieh elassrobrri strategies can you use to provide a firm foundation for English learners'
.. ear'ly,literacy development?
Hbw"c:iln yol.l assess early literacy development?
HciviJc:~r)'~udifferentiate instruction to meet the varying needs of your English learners?
Chapter 5 11!1 Emergent Literacy: English Learners Beginning to Write and Read
Afew years ago, we spent some time in a two-way Spanish immersion kin-dergarten, observing and helping the teacher. Children were immersed in a
print-rich environment where they drew and wrote ·daily in journals, listened to
predictable stories and poems, rewrote stories, and played in literacy-enriched
dramatic play centers that included a post office, restaurant, office, grocery store,
blocks, arts, and writing areas. We were interested in how these kindergartners
would approach the task of writing in a classroom such as this, where children
were invited to draw and write to their hearts' content but were not given much
explicit instruction on writing.
During English language arts one day, I (Suzanne) asked a group of six chil-
dren (native Spanish speakers, native English speakers, and bilinguals) to write a
story in English to take home to my husband. I passed out the paper, which was
lined on the bottom half and plain on the top, and the children began writing
without hesitation. As they wrote, I made note of how each child approached the
task, and as they finished, I knelt down to ask each one to tell about their story.
Lisa had written the words "I love my mom" in legible script and had illustrated
her story with hearts and a picture of herself next to her mother. Rosa had drawn
a picture of her seven family members and had filled several lines with block let-
ters evenly spaced. Osvaldo was the last child to finish his work. He had filled the
lined half of the page with indecipherable letters and punctuation and was now
busy drawing. Three times I asked him to tell me about his story and three times
he simply replied, "I don't know yet." The fourth time I interrupted his drawing,
he explained in desperation, "I won't know what my story is about until I finish
my picture!" His story, shown Figure 5.1, was about a boy kicking a soccer ball,
a shiny black and white triangular sphere that nearly flew off the page to hit me
in the face of my ineptitude!
These kindergarten children had never been told how to write or what to
say. Yet somehow they were quite comfortable with this request to write a story
someone else would read. The forms of their writing varied from wavy lines to ap-
parently random arrays of block letters to conventional print. The topics of their
stories came from their own interests and experiences. They knew their stories
had a purpose of a sort: My husband would enjoy reading them. Yet the children
seemed more focused on their own purpose: personal expression of a message
from within. It was clear that all six children knew at least something about both
the forms and functions of print. Furthermore, they were all confident that they
could write a story, one that would at least have meaning for themselves. They
differed, however, in the extent to which they were able to approximate conven-
tional writing forms to convey their meaning. Indeed, they differed in their under-
standing of whether print has anything to do with meaning at all! For Osvaldo,
the writing had no meaning until the picture was complete.
When I returned to the classroom after spring break, Osvaldo asked, "How'd
your daddy like the story?" In typical kindergarten fashion, he had created an
equivalence between husband and dad. But his question revealed something more
than his developing understanding of human relationships. It illuminated his
sense of audience! Osvaldo provides us with a rich example of the many aspects
of writing children must eventually coordinate: forms, functions, and illustrations
and the need to shape these in a way that will please one's audience. In the early
stages of literacy development, young children typically understand and control
some aspects of the task better than others. And they must grapple with these
ersed in a
o write a
Chapter 5 l!i!l Emergent Literacy: English Learners Beginning to Write and Read
FIGURE 5.1 Ovaldo's Soccer Story
complexities while still constructing their understanding of the social and physical
world around them.
The kindergarten children just described were demonstrating early literacy
development in an emergent literacy environment. In this chapter, we examine
early literacy development as it has been researched over the past two decades.
In doing so, we will briefly contrast two viewpoints on children's literacy devel-
opment: the emergent literacy viewpoint and the reading readiness viewpoint.
We will spend some time discussing the main tenets of the emergent literacy per-
spective, illustrating our points with samples of children's writing and reading,
and describing how teachers implement such a perspective in early childhood
classrooms. Finally, we describe ways to assess English learners' early reading
and writing development. In our discussion we also address a pressing concern of
many teachers: How do I help older English learners who have not yet learned to
read or write in any language?
Chapter 5 1111 Emergent Literacy: English Learners Beginning to Write and Read
t Does Research Tell Us about the Early
Development of English Learners?
A large body of research investigates early literacy development in a first lan-
guage. As a result, we now have a substantial amount of exciting and interest-
ing information about young children's early literacy development in English,
Spanish, and other languages (e.g., Chi, 1988; Clay, 1975; Ferreiro & Teberosky,
1982; Harste, Woodward, & Burke, 1984; Teale, 1984; Teale & Sulzby, 1986).
However, relatively little research documents early literacy development in Eng-
lish as a second langu